He played in bands at school and those bands began to get little gigs in the “blur of music” that was happening in London around the early Noughties. Alex loved it but needed some security, so he trained to be a chef while still playing and teaching himself piano and guitar.
“I started to play open mic nights as I hated my job,” he laughs. “Or rather, I preferred to play guitar. I would play every gig I was offered, but I never had the patience to learn someone else’s music. Maybe I’ve got ADD, but I get bored trying to learn other people’s songs. I tend to just take the chords, make a mess of them, then write a new song!”
A small songwriting deal started a bout of travel, with Alex living on a boat moored in Harlow in Essex, which he then sailed down the Thames to Stamford Hill. Soon after he moved to Brighton.
These new songs were more personal and pointed than any he’d written before, “I love one guy on a guitar telling stories,” he says. “I started putting whatever had happened to me – the women and the mistakes – into the songs. It’s supposed to be cathartic – but it’s not really. It just reminds you of it all.”
These new demos found their way to Island Records and two weeks later a deal was on the table. Shortly afterwards Alex was on his way to New Orleans where he got together with producers Diplo & Switch (responsible for the Jamaican dancehall project Major Lazer and M.I.A.’s Paper Plane – among many others). The single Up All Night and album track Tight Rope were born in those sessions.
Alex says the duo made him think about his songs in a totally new way, in came polyrhythms and synth sounds that just wouldn't have happened otherwise. “I tend to be a bit more reserved when I write,” he laughs. “They put it all out there – and it works.”
After New Orleans there were trips to Jamaica and LA to write more and record the songs properly. What Alex came back with is an album that’s in touch with his beloved soul and jazz as well as opening itself up to funk and jungle and punk rock and dubstep.
So Relax My Beloved (“that one’s about realising that someone needs words of comfort. Only you can’t be passive with them because, you always end up exploding…”) grows from a minimalistic shudder into a great, growling monster of a tune. Whispering (“that’s got a Lewis Carroll vibe…”) is a reverb-heavy acoustic lament with a huge melancholic drive behind it.
Won’t Let You Down (“It feels negative – but it isn’t. It’s about meeting a girl and having this amazing bond. You want to chill out and not make bad things happen. But then they do happen…”) is a gorgeous, piano-led gem that could have slipped off the first Tom Waits album.
You may have heard the explosive west-coast punk-rock thrasher Up All Night (“It’s about going on a bender!”) which pitches Clare’s songwriting skills up against very 21st century grimy drums and thick waves of bass, while Too Close (“It’s about a friend I had of the opposite sex. It’s no longer a friendship…”) has a speaker-wrecking, wump-wump, dubstep bassline and hair-raising rave-anthem chords. It feels like a monstrous hit in the making.